The Saddening State of MTV's Programming

Teaching seniors in high school, the current line-up of MTV programming is downright frightening (and in one instance, downright hopeful). Is this age setting in? Or common sense? OK. I can equate the Jersey Shore as something relative to the Real World of my youth. But as brilliant as Jersey Shore really is – and it is a thing of art even if the 3rd season has become an obvious (to its participants even) caricature of the 1st – I’m hoping the generation making this their daily lives doesn’t ape the fashion sense or lexicon, or behavior of the Jersey herd. I’m hoping it’s seen as downright tacky. Skins has become a double-edged sword for me. As a huge fan of the British original, I was glad to see the same producers try this in America (we’ve all come to agree on the American Office, right?). And by replicating each of the old episodes, nearly frame by frame, in an American setting, it could make for real, good, teen-drama television. I was in high hopes that it could equal the unequaled Canadian teen-drama, Degrassi (which is now still in its Boiling Point phase, beyond unequaled). Too bad, four episodes in, Skins is a tragedy. I’m not even appalled at the overdrive of sex and drug talk in the dialogue and set-pieces – it’s not pornography, go watch a Larry Clark film if you want a little shock – it’s just how bad these kids sound in talking to each other. They mock the “rich private school” types, but attend a high school that allows them the privilege of smoking a joint in the bathroom (co-ed, in the same stall). This is not reality. I know first-hand – teens don’t talk like this. The closest I came was smoking a cigarette on the outlying roof of the THS drama room. If these teens live in this utopia of teenage rebellion, whilst among the common class, get me a time machine and sign me up. Given the lack of advertisers willing to latch on and support MTV in their teenage exploitation (which it isn’t, mind you, but I predicted a Midwestern/Xtian/Red-Parent backlash) and the lack of actual depth in these characters (where unlike the original, these are highly un-likeable) I can’t see Skins lasting too long. Debate/Debate.

The Vice Guide to Everything likely won’t be back. I don’t know that. I have no insider information. But I also haven’t seen a cultural uprising proclaiming the Vice half-hour variety show as something relevant. Thought it is. This show is the most intelligent thing on MTV since that Jesse VJ or at least Buzzkill (where are those DVDs?), maybe Chris Connelly – but he’s a scab. Basically, if you’ve been a long-time fan of the magazine and the VBS.tv arm of their filmic representation (the Vice Guide to Travel is highly recommended) then you won’t find what the Guide to Everything does as that shocking. The first season was simply the best of VBS cut down to bite-size portraits of fringe life in our world. Visits to Liberia, gun markets in Afghanistan, underground strip-clubs in Detroit, are de rigor for Vice and here those integral pieces of legitimate journalism (seriously) are illuminated as grotesque music videos. I can’t fault Vice for cashing in at all – hopefully the youth will start EBay-ing back issues of the ‘zine (I have an extensive collection, mind you) – but I feel like no one is listening. Them kids aren’t worldly. The closest they might get is an M.I.A. album. Honestly, that’s a start. But I feel the news is secondary to finding out about ICP tour dates or the new "legal" gas station drugs to hide from the parents. And that’s Real Life.

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